When I was pregnant I asked my smart parent friends for any resources–and got some awesome recommendations! Below are the top recs grouped by topic for the busy current or soon-to-be-parent. These are unpaid, unbiased reviews.
Speed Summary: If you are pregnant and want minimal books, these were the top- Pregnancy: Mayo Clinic Guide plus (optional) Expecting Better. New Parent Guide: Either AAP or Mayo.
If you have time for more, here were other top recs: Scheduling/Sleep: Moms on Call or EASY method (see below). Soothing: Happiest Baby Video and one more. Delivery: several links below for ‘natural birth’ info sciency friends appreciated. Post-Kids Relationship: And Baby Makes Three Breastfeeding: In person help (see below) or Latch. Potty Training: Lots! (Maybe start with Diaper Free before 3.) Parenting Theory/Approach: Lots! (Many especially good for Audiobooks now or later.) Below are more detailed recs and other great books by topic.
Personal hint: If you are busy pre or post baby, listening on Audible ($15/month includes any one book monthly and chance to swap if you don’t like it) or reading on the Kindle Phone App (one handed=easier to juggle with a kiddo) are helpful ways to learn while feeding/stuck under a sleeping baby/driving (Audio only!:P)/doing chores around the house etc. Many libraries also have these books, or might even have e-lending to get electronically from home as well.)
Now for all those great recommendations!!
Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Mayo is more informative and less frightening than What to Expect When You Are Expecting…Mayo has a useful month-by-month format to inform and prepare as well as background sections; this alone would cover all your bases for information/common questions. Several Apps cover the baby development as well, but perhaps not the medical/safety info. This book is concise, educational yet friendly, and has a nice colorful layout and images. (I read the first edition, but gave the link to the newest one.)
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know For those who love data and geeking out! Recommended by most sciency friends, an Economist analyzes the scientific literature to debunk/refine many recommendations in pregnancy/childbirth-oddly reassuring, plus an enjoyable read. (See more about Science of Mom book below for similar sciency detailed birth->feeding tips.)
New Parent Guide:
I rec to choose just one of AAP or Mayo books–there’s a good additional option of Science of Mom (book or blog) covering birth to ~6months if you want to geek out.
AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics): Caring for Your Baby and Young Child- Birth to Age 5. The AAP is where most health recommendations come from, so it’s great to hear it from the source. It covered routine baby care, gear (and safety), illnesses and most things you would need. The first year covers development in 3 month blocks, and then chapters by year beyond that. Although it was useful, it was bigger and clunkier (with old school black and white illustrations) compared to the Mayo Clinic First year, which I actually enjoyed more post birth; however, the AAP book is more comprehensive and longer lasting (so selection between the 2 is probably by preference). Notable is HealthyChildren.org is a patient-facing website covering AAP advice as well that is searchable, useful and current-but not as curated for a comprehensive read as this book (but perhaps you’d turn to the website more for the latest rather than pull out this book once you actually have kids).
Mayo Clinic Guide for Your Baby’s First Year. Covers general baby care, health and safety, illnesses, parenting etc plus detailed month by month information on development, play etc. I bought this book after not really getting into the AAP book’s month-by-month sections- I enjoyed the Mayo book more for its concise, friendly, informative layout (if you like Mayo Pregnancy, you’d like this similar style). It might be my top rec, except it only covers 1 year.
The Science of Momby Alice Callahan.This is a book from a blog, which has great scientific content from birth to feeding (but nothing beyond that 6 month feeding window). (Much of it is still available for free on her blog as well: https://scienceofmom.com/best-of-the-blog/) It is super informative, well written and enjoyable to read.
Funny, Yet Useful Gift book: Be Prepared: A practical guide for new dads. Whimsical, olde timey pictures, and while not comprehensive it does offer concrete, entertaining and practical baby-tending skills for either parent!
Moms on Call Many people loved this book and highly recommended it for the Baby Schedules alone! Plus the book gives bullet point outlines of practical advice for common medical issues (less comprehensive, but easier to follow than the AAP/Mayo books). It is written by 2 nurses who answered help lines for parents for several years–the book itself is thin, but goes in detail on the care details (swaddle tips etc.) behind the schedule which make it work. It also has a simple App of just the schedules for about $4 http://momsoncall.com/moms-on-call-scheduler/, but doesn’t cover the other content/background as well. Their website has more details, plus has a free video on swaddling etc: http://momsoncall.com/ Many people swore by these schedules to get their kiddo to sleep through the night! (It personally didn’t fit me my baby though, but even then some idea of scheduling was still useful; $18-20 for the tiny book was higher than other books per content, but anything to help sleep is priceless!)
EASY Method: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. The EASY (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You-time for you) Baby schedule is recommended by this ‘super nanny’ author; plus she covers some thoughts on talking to your baby/various personalities but mostly fills up the book with lots of engaging anecdotes. A quick summary of her ideas of this flexible scheduling might be enough to get you through the busy newborn period- EASY especially seems to fit well the first few months with baby sleep patterns. Many sources online summarize her simple EASY theory, like here: https://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/family/the-easy-routine-explained-111176
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. This is the ultimate sleep book/ number one parenting book is Research based by a pediatric sleep specialist who’s done it for years. Every sleep article out there references him. I enjoyed the data driven approach and it taught me essential concepts about sleep (and it debunks several things you might need). (My sleep deprived brain had trouble distilling useful things to concretely apply, but maybe it’s a better ‘read before you need it’ book!)
The Happiest Baby on the Block-5S’s to soothe in the first 3 months done by the pediatrician Harvey Karp (Note: I found the online video was super useful, faster and worth my time more than reading another book :P). On Vimeo for free with the core info (free version lacks the 20min extra Q&A that wasn’t worth the official video price tag in my mind) https://vimeopro.com/simexiwerksscreeningroom/happiest-baby-on-the-block/video/216203461 I did pay $9 for the streaming video directly from their website here though, I felt what I learned was worth supporting them.: https://www.happiestbaby.com/products/baby-streaming-video-english
Free video links on other soothing I liked: Pediatrician Dr Robert Hamilton and the soothing hold: https://youtu.be/j2C8MkY7Co8
Expecting Better covered the science of several aspects of delivery (I referred back to it several times before birth; The Science of Mom (blog) covers delivery/baby care soon after.)
One friend also recommended: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth mostly anecdotes, but still empowering regarding natural birth/doulas if you are curious about that route (recommended by sciency people who found it opened their mind and after reading they appreciated having a doula and natural birth). Interesting ideas (maybe worth getting used too), but in limited time there are a few related Ted Talks free online for an abridged/quicker version of some of the ideas. The author Ina May does a Ted Talk here in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9LO1Vb54yk (Whatever you decide, the ‘removing fear’ from the birth process ideas might be helpful to you as they were to me ;P) This Ted Talk about doula’s was also a neat thought on the birth process too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8CU7QqYsGE&vl=en
An aside- these labor belly dance videos helped with natural pain control for me labor before going to the hospital or once there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9K4bYlvzv8
It can be a big change to relationship, and many friends admitted it can be rough (plus add in sleep deprivation)! Getting help or counseling is always a good option if you are having issues (several friends noted counseling doesn’t have to last forever-but it can be a big long lasting positive for better coping and communication)! Also, post-partum depression is real and has many forms of expression- get help if you need it! https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or by calling your health care provider right away. For milder or preventative relationship challenges these were good:
And Baby Makes Three by John M. Gottman PhD. A research psychologist delves into the science of this big life transition, while also gives some very concrete communication, prioritization and other tools to do yourself or with your partner. Concisely covers a ton of relevant stuff; has some quick worksheets that might make it worth getting a printed/kindle version to see.
Not really recommended- How Not to Hate Your Husband after Kids by Jancee Dunn. A writer expresses her own quest against resentment, and covers (some research) on gender roles, chore division, communication etc. It may help vent (if that title appeals to you), but overall it might get you more fired up rather than providing tools. This article review that summarizes some of her key points. https://lifehacker.com/5-ways-not-to-hate-your-husband-after-kids-1794629282 (Again, read And Baby Makes Three for similar content, but a much more balanced, constructive and actionable information.)
Thanks to Obamacare, Lactation Consultants tend to be provided. Many hospitals have them in house (or also have nurses trained to provide additional breastfeeding support). In-person help is far more valuable than any book (and some in person classes before delivery through local hospitals might be a reasonable primer). Here are other resources too:
Latch by Robin Kaplan M Ed IBCLC. A new book by a San Diego based Lactation Consultant. This was excellent, short, informative- and had good color illustrations on the various nursing holds, plus advice up through food introduction, pumping schedules at work, etc. I found it through random searching but really enjoyed it and recommend it highly.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International. A lactation consultant recommended this, and it is written by the La Leche League grassroots organization that promoted breastfeeding long before lactation consultants were a profession (2010 was the newest edition I found). I didn’t read it myself, but a skim of the sample text online made think it was informative on lots of things but perhaps more wordy than the Latch book, but feel free to draw your own conclusions
Kellymom.com Great website written by a lactation consultant. Personable, reassuring, and generally fairly accurate to the limit of research in this area. (This is a top online reference recommended by nost lactation consultants.) It is great to search later when you have questions (but you don’t necessarily need to peruse before.
This usually comes up later in life, but some methods start 6 months or much earlier on potty training to work with an infant’s natural bathroom instincts that theoretically might be ignored/suppressed with super effective disposable diapers.
This could easily be it’s own blog post, but here are recs from a thoughtful friend on this recommending related references: “potty training is where is see the most decision making in how you want to approach things and it’s a very poorly researched area. It may seem early, but you can actually start from day one with minimal diapers if you wanted to by using Elimination Communication, all laid out in the book Go Diaper Free by Andrea Olson (cheaper than Amazon on her website http://godiaperfree.com/ where book purchase includes digital text, audio version, online video library and a support group), or you can master cloth diapers or the disposable diaper and do normal potty training at 18 months plus using a method like Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki (used this with my first child with great success but didn’t know about other methods). With my second I’m using Diaper Free Before 3 and some Go Diaper Free and hope to have him trained well before two. We are making progress. He’s 11 months and pretty regularly goes on the potty now.”
Many of these could be read later (and many might be good for Audiobook), although if you have more time when pregnant and want to get a head start here you go!
Parenting Game Plan by Katie Marsh. The idea and layout is good (workbook format of questions about parenting to talk about before/after you have kids with your partner); you may want to add more questions of your own, but this is a good start.
Montessori From the Start a sciency friend said it “has guided a lot of my choices in what we have in the house for the boys and a lot of what we don’t have (i.e. anything with batteries) and how I approach a lot of activities with them. I don’t buy into that one whole hog, but it’s really a good starting point for an educational perspective of those years.”
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting Covers one woman’s experience from birth to mid-childhood raising kids in Paris. It provides a perspective on other ways to do things, emphasizing parent wellness and kid autonomy possibly more than some recent styles of American parenting.
What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and the Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot PhD. A fun read regarding baby brain development.
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting A friend noted “less good and I don’t agree with all of it, but I thought this was an important perspective also”
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk Much later (like 2+ years).